Specialising in beautiful yet functional stoneware pottery, Kate Garwood has quietly built a renowned ceramics brand from her garden studio near the river. Here she tells us her story, from market stall to gallery shows.
Tell us a little about your work and your background.
Whilst a teacher in London I became interested in ceramics and decided to retrain as a potter, joining a studio in Hackney. Initially, I sold my work on Broadway Market in Hackney, which gave me the chance to build confidence as a maker as well as a seller. I later moved to Lower Shiplake where I now work in a studio at the end of my garden.
I create small batches of wheel-thrown Stoneware pottery. The aim is to make pots that are aesthetically beautiful and highly functional. I use bright slips to create sgraffito decoration and use simple natural stone glazes. I always leave a part of my work unglazed to reveal the natural beauty of the clay.
I fire all my work in a large gas kiln in a reducing atmosphere - this brings out the iron in the clay creating speckled glazes and the rich brown colour of the fired clay.
What made you decide to start your creative business?
It began as a hobby. I don't think I really believed I could be a full-time potter and create a business, but it happened organically over a number of years. I felt guilty creating a job around the thing I most enjoyed doing - but it made sense.
I began teaching pottery whilst developing the creative and selling side of my business. Fortunately people seemed to like my pottery so I've been able to continue doing something that I absolutely love.
Where do you find inspiration?
I was interested in ceramics long before I started making - I was inspired by many of the pioneers of studio pottery such as Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, Lucie Rie and more contemporary potters such as Richard Batterham and Chris Keenan.
The natural environment is a huge influence on the form, colour and texture in my work.
Describe your typical working day
There is never enough time in the day. Once the heating and radio is switched on, I set about the list of jobs for the day. Recycling the clay from the day before, wedging freshly dried clay, sieving and mixing glazes or setting up glazes tests, turning newly thrown pots, throwing pottery on the wheel, decorating or carving the clay, pulling handles, glazing newly-fired bisque ware or loading the kiln for a firing.
What has been the biggest highlight and biggest challenge to date?
One of the highlights of 2021 was being part of Oxford Ceramics Fair - it's one of the biggest events of the year and hosts some of the best ceramicists from around the country. It was also one of my biggest challenges. You are expected to produce a huge amount of work of a high standard and it can be quite challenging when you are making everything yourself. Plus I'm in awe of all the other makers so that's an added pressure.
Best nugget of wisdom you can share with your fellow Creative Ducks?
Best advice is to get on Social Media. It's been the biggest help in developing my business - it's opened countless doors and allows direct traffic to your website in a way that would be difficult without it. I think if you’re doing something you love, it's hard to go wrong. It helps to have a distinct style that is easily recognisable.
Where can we find out more?
My pottery is available on my website ceramicsbykategarwood.co.uk and at various stockists: Cambridge Contemporary Art Gallery, Gordon Russell Design Museum, Bevere Gallery, Sarah Wiseman Gallery, Blue Bramble Gallery, Velvet Easel Gallery and Whitehouse Gallery.